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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on FlexJobs.com.
Beware. Your subconscious often tries to seduce you with the idea that you can send just one more email or put in just 20 more minutes.
After that, you’ll finish for the day. Honestly, that’s it — just a little bit more work.
But what happens when that email gets sent or those 20 minutes are up? More often than not, other tasks creep in and keep you at your desk even longer.
So, what’s the solution? Don’t resign yourself to an unhealthy work-life balance. That just leads to anxiety, stress, and a lengthy list of health problems.
Instead, create a routine that helps you shut your office down at the end of your workday. Call it your shutdown ritual.
What Is a Shutdown Ritual?
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Merriam-Webster defines a ritual as “an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set, precise manner.” The goal of an end-of-day ritual is straightforward. It’s a short routine finalizing your workday.
Depending on your job, this could mean checking emails one last time and marking any that need to be addressed the following day. Or, it could be filing paperwork and closing out of your work network.
Regardless of what specific tasks you complete, a shutdown ritual signals the conclusion of your workday.
In a traditional office, you’d have a routine to shut down your workspace for the evening. You’d tidy your desk, turn off lights, and gather your belongings to take home.
In a remote environment, it’s just as essential — and possibly even more so — to give yourself mental closure at the end of your work hours. And it’s up to you to do so.
Reasons You Need a Shutdown Ritual
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Let’s be honest. There’s always more work. You could spend 24 hours at your desk and still not check off every box.
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Having an end-of-day shutdown routine gives you back a sense of control you might not even know you were missing. Intentional patterns put you back in charge of your work hours.
That sense of control helps lower the anxiety and the stress of overworking. It may even prevent overworking in the first place.
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Research tells us that a routine helps boost productivity. In this case, you’re creating a structure for the following day.
You’ll be more productive when you can focus on concrete tasks and avoid dealing with an unmanageable list floating around in your head.
Not only that, but brain-dumping simplifies your task list. Recognize the tasks that you can batch and prioritize the urgent ones.
Better Work-Life Boundaries
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Without a healthy work-life balance, it’s easy to feel like you’re always working. Before long, you’re experiencing symptoms of burnout along with mental and physical stressors, like anxiety and depression.
You can utilize flexibility to intentionally build a schedule around your commitments and balance work time with personal time.
Create Your Work Shutdown Ritual
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As you consider creating your shutdown ritual, focus on simple and uncomplicated actions. That’s not to say you can’t or shouldn’t utilize a productivity app, but your goal is short and sweet.
Daily wrap-up doesn’t replace more extended scheduling and planning periods. Instead, use the following tips to outline an ideal nightly shutdown ritual.
Organize Outstanding Tasks
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Do you know exactly what still needs to be done? Or, are you keeping a disorganized list in your head that zips around like a toddler on a sugar high? Getting those tasks organized on paper can give you an immediate sense of calm.
Along with visualizing your plan of attack, you’re likely to see that your to-do list is more manageable than you thought.
Avoid getting carried away with an overwhelming list of tasks you have due. Instead, focus on gathering anything outstanding from your day.
Dedicate an area where you stash your tasks for the evening. That might be a productivity app, a Google Doc, or a notepad.
Whatever it is, make it consistent and simple to inspire you to utilize it. Leave it on your desk or the top of your drawer for easy access the next day.
Prioritize and Plan the Following Day
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There are several ways to plan for productivity the following workday.
For starters, try tackling your most challenging task first thing. This approach is known as Eat the Frog. It could be a lengthy task or one you’ve been procrastinating on.
During your shutdown ritual, you can break that task into smaller tasks and consider setting time limits. Give yourself a reasonable time limit to accomplish that task.
Alternatively, the complete opposite approach is to tackle a short task first thing. You’ll have a quick win that can give you a boost of momentum. Either way, relax as you shift into work mode with a clear plan for your morning.
Acknowledge Your Wins
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We’re built to focus on tasks that must be completed, easily overlooking what we’ve already checked off our daily list. Once that checkbox is ticked, we mentally move on.
But before moving onto the next item on your to-do list, why not take a moment to celebrate your accomplishments?
Giving yourself a mental high-five is about more than feeling good. You’ll also be able to review what went well and repeat that for more success tomorrow. Analyze the areas where you could tweak your approach or improve your focus.
You may notice your mind wanders each afternoon at the same time. Then, tasks become more laborious. Could you schedule a break to boost your energy before that happens?
Can you power through heavy mental tasks more quickly at a particular time? What was different? Did you take more time to research or make a plan that sets you up for success?
Maybe start a daily journal or allot a short period of time to analyze your accomplishments for the day to leave work in a healthier headspace.
Tidy and Clean Up
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In a traditional office, you walk out for your commute home. In a similar fashion, cleaning up your physical and digital space in your home office signals to your brain that your workday is complete.
You’re creating a physical barrier for your time as you organize your files, shut down tabs, and take a few minutes to dust and file.
Likewise, you’re also setting yourself up for success the following day with a clean and organized workspace. After all, studies link clutter with decreased focus and inhibited memory.
Shut Down and Walk Away
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The final step in your shutdown ritual will be to turn off your computer and the lights on your desk and walk away. Consider how you would treat your workspace in a traditional office.
You might close your blinds and water a plant before you leave. Maintaining similar tasks ensures no need to return later in the day. You’re also creating the mental shift into personal time.
Furthermore, adjusting your end-of-day work settings makes your workspace less inviting. It’s harder to talk yourself into doing a little more work when you have to turn everything back on.
Aim to make it slightly uncomfortable or awkward to return to work. You want to trigger a thought process that causes you to pause and analyze why you’re in your work zone outside of work hours.
Enhance Your Remote Role With a Shutdown Ritual
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Building a solid routine for your remote workday is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.
With a shutdown ritual firmly in place, you can walk away from your workspace and invest your time in personal activities and relationships, ensuring that you bring your best self to work the next day.